Special to Iredell Free News

For at least 75 years, the playground at Broad Street United Methodist Church has been the site for laughter and play for children of the church and the community. Children from across the Statesville area who gather at the Friday After 5 Summer Concert Series call it “the church with the playground.”

A Grand Opening/Dedication of the new Broad Street Park and Playground was postponed due to coronavirus precautions. However, the playground is open. The community is invited to come out and enjoy the new playground equipment.

The new playground, designed and installed by Carolina Parks and Play playground specialists, started a year and a half ago. The genesis of the new playground began when concerns about the existing playground were brought to Dr. Peggy Willhide, who chaired the Broad Street UMC Preschool Board. Under the direction of Willhide and Children’s Director Susan Tharpe, the dreaming began.

The church wanted the playground to reflect the church. The tower with the windows under it mirror the architecture of the historic church. The blue color of the equipment is taken from the church’s stained glass windows. More important than the appearance, the church wanted the playground to reflect its welcoming nature and its heart. The new playground was made possible through a generous bequest from Henry and Betty Jean Britt, along with memorial money from Broad Street members.

When people from the church and community come to Broad Street Park and Playground, they will find equipment for children with a full range of physical abilities and those of special needs. The Sway Fun Inclusive Glider is wheelchair accessible and fun for play for those with and without mobility devices. People will also find the Rollerslide – a tactile slide that doesn’t create the static that shorts out batteries of hearing devices and can create damage to cochlyear implants.

There is a Cozy Dome for children with autism or anxiety who get overwhelmed where they can find a quiet place and still see what other children are doing. Children with upper body mobility limitations will find molded bucket arch swings and the uniquely designed “Oodle Swing” which will hold five to eight children, children and adults, young adult students or give a hammock-like swinging experience to children in wheelchairs.

“We wanted a playground where no child would have to hang back and watch other children play—a place where all children could participate and a place for people to interact in a joyful way. That is the kind of playground that shows the welcome of the church to everyone,” said Senior Pastor Mary John Dye.

Broad Street UMC has developed a special heart for people with special needs in an annual spring retreat for people with special needs. That ministry has been extended to a Statesville-based, ongoing ministry called SHINE, which is devoted to those with special needs. The new Broad Street Park and Playground expands this cherished ministry of the church.

Broad Street Park and Playground is open to the public as a community playground. It is reserved Monday-Thursday mornings for the Broad Street Preschool from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Broad Street Kids will be hosting playdates/storytimes on the playground Sunday afternoons beginning October 25 from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. Kids and families are welcome.